Israel disbands platoon over defiance

Israel's army disbanded a platoon of religious Jewish conscripts after nine of them refused orders to help seal occupied Gaza in preparation for the evacuation of 21 settlements.

    Israeli military leaders fear a mutiny over the Gaza pullout

    The order by chief of staff, Lieutenant-General Dan Halutz, on Sunday was the most sweeping move yet in efforts to head off a feared mutiny by rightist troops opposed to quitting land some Israelis see as a Jewish birthright and strategic asset.
       
    It will be the first time that Israel has given up settlements on land that Palestinians want for a state.
       
    Israel, last week, sealed off 21 Gaza settlements that are slated for evacuation, prompting a rush by rightists who tried to push their way through. A looser closure is in force around four West Bank settlements that are also to be removed. 
        
    Disciplinary hearings

    About 8500 Israeli settlers live in 
    Gaza; a few are going peacefully

    The army said nine soldiers balked at orders to reinforce the Kissufim blockade and will face disciplinary hearings.
       
    "Following this event, (Halutz) decided that the platoon be disbanded immediately," the army said in a statement.
       
    Military sources described the platoon as catering to conscripts who divide their time between military duties and seminary studies.
       
    At least 40 soldiers, many of them religious Jews who said they were following the instructions of right-wing rabbis, have been sent to the stockade or would face disciplinary hearings for insubordination linked to the upcoming Gaza withdrawal.
       
    About 8500 settlers are to leave the Gaza Strip, home to 1.4 million Palestinians. Polls show that most Israelis back the pullout.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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